At 30,Tom has to play for money...not love!
JUST because you’re a footballer, it doesn’t make you a millionaire. So when Tom Pope refuses to take a pay cut to stay at Port Vale, I’m with him all the way. Players in League One and League Two aren’t on £100,000 a year. They probably don’t earn that much more than someone with a good job in the average town or city.
Yes, that’s a bit more than the average Joe. But there is no way on earth they can retire at 35 and never need to work again. You need to play in the Premier League for a number of years to do that.
Even if you have one big move, like I did to Celtic, it won’t come close to giving you that kind of security.
I’ve even known players drop out because they were better off elsewhere. One guy I knew was offered £700-a-week by a pro club in League Two but eventually signed for a part-time Ryman League side.
When I asked why, he said “Well, I got offered £500-a-week to play in Non-League and if I play for them I can work full-time with my old man and earn an extra grand a week.”
Fans can be naïve at times. They think a player should take a pay cut and play for peanuts but it’s not fair.
It’s fine them saying, “You should play for the love of the club”. But if their boss turned round to them and said,“You should take a pay cut for the love of the company”, what would they do?
He could have kids, a mort- gage. If he’s on, say, £1,500-aweek and they’re offering £800-a-week, will those costs be covered?
Tom has scored goal after goal, season after season. He’s earned the right to make demands. And when you’re hitting the age of 30, you’ve got to be thinking “This could be my last major contract”.
So I don’t blame him at all.You have to go where the money is. People might say that’s a bit shallow but when your career is over at 35, there’s no place for sentiment.
Retirement could be just around the corner. I had to pack up at 29. And you never know when you’ll lose form.
When you’re at your peak, every club is in for you and every agent is saying “I’ll get you this, I’ll get you that”. But a couple of bad seasons or one long injury lay-off and that phone stops ringing.
Leaving the game can be a massive wake-up call. Rightly or wrongly, footballers tend to live to the full while playing. If they’re on £80,000 a year, they spend £80,000 a year. Then you retire and suddenly you can’t have that flash car on the drive.You can’t have that massive mortgage.You have to make big changes.
And clubs don’t give a toss about helping you.When I retired, I didn’t get offers to work and coach.
That’s why you have to make as much money as you can, as fast as you can.
CONSISTENT: Tom Pope, centre, celebrates scoring another for Port Vale with Lee Hughes, right, and Doug Loft